Tuesday, September 17, 2019

1) West Papua unrest tests Indonesia's Jokowi as second term begins

2) Australia refuses to rule out handing over Sydney lawyer who advocates for West Papuans to Indonesia


1) West Papua unrest tests Indonesia's Jokowi as second term begins

President faces challenge of addressing Papuan demands and keeping country intact amid calls for independence.
by Febriana Firdaus  9 hours ago

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesia's West Papua region has been mired in civil unrest since the middle of August, following police detentions and alleged racial slurs against ethnic Papuan students studying in the country's most populous island of Java.
The protests, which at times turned deadly, have since evolved into calls for a referendum and independence in the country's poorest region.
The violence is a major test of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who was returned to power in April's election and will be officially installed for his second term in office on October 20. Having won 78 percent of the vote in Papua, he now faces the difficult task of delivering on his promises of economic growth and genuine autonomy to Papuans, while dampening calls for independence that threaten to carve out another part of the country.

"For West Papuans, Jokowi's approach is all wrong," Made Supriatma, an Indonesia expert at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a Singapore think-tank, told Al Jazeera.
"Jokowi always promises to boost economic growth under the special autonomy scheme and build the region using natural resources," Made said. "But he has neglected the people, so they feel left behind," 
At the same time, Jokowi, has to confront the issue of racism, which has left indigenous Papuans feeling like second-class citizens, further increasing demands to break away from Indonesia, political observers added. 

Jokowi's response

Jokowi, has tried to cultivate better relations with the Papuans. 
Two months into his first term as president in 2014, he visited Jayapura, the capital and largest city in Papua province.

In the months leading to his re-election bid earlier this year, Jokowi visited parts of West Papua at least 12 times, according to the Jakarta Globe. He was later rewarded by Papuan voters, who gave him their overwhelming support in the election. 
But the scale of the recent protests has left Jokowi scrambling to respond.
As the protests erupted, the president appealed for calm while declaring that the violence was under control, only to be confronted with more unrest.
On September 11, as the situation calmed, Jokowi finally welcomed Papuan representatives to the presidential palace for discussions, during which he promised to build a palace in West Papua and upgrade the region's internet connection.
He also offered to engage in more dialogue with indigenous Papuans, and ordered the government to hire Papuan graduates to help build the proposed new Indonesian capital in Kalimantan. 
He promised he would again visit several areas in Papua and celebrate the New Year in the region.
But he has remained mum on the growing demand for a Papua referendum.
Wiranto, Jokowi's top security official and designated intermediary on the West Papua issue, has dismissed any talk of a referendum, offering only to talk to Papuans about their "basic rights".
At the back of the government's mind is East Timor, which held a referendum in 1999, and eventually declared independence from Indonesia.

Rumblings for freedom 

Like Indonesia, the West Papua region was once a Dutch colony.
Indonesia proclaimed its independence in 1945, ending 350 years of colonial rule and then claimed all territories of the former Dutch East Indies, including the West Papua region, which is now divided into two provinces - Papua and West Papua.
The Dutch retained control of the region until the early 1960s, but in 1969, after a controversial referendum backed by the United Nations, it became part of Indonesia 
That vote, remains contested by Papuan nationalist groups including the Free Papua Movement and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which was formed in 2014.
For decades, rumblings for Papuan self-determination and independence have continued.
In 2001, the government granted West Papua special autonomy in response to demands for an independence.
But in December 2018, violence flared again after independence fighters attacked a road-building project leaving 17 people dead and triggering a military crackdown that forced 35,000 civilians to flee their homes.

Anger over racial slurs

Then, in mid-August, two incidents in Java involving Papuan students set off the most widespread and sustained protests the region has seen.
According to reports, the students were allegedly called "monkeys" and "pigs", as they were detained by police officers.

The students were eventually released, and the officers suspected of being involved either dismissed or suspended.
But by then, the uproar had spread across the West Papua region. 
Despite facing threats of arrest, thousands of demonstrators waved the "Morning Star" flag, which is seen as a symbol of self-rule and banned.
Human Rights Watch in Indonesia reported that at least 10 people were killed in the latest violent protests.
In response, the government blocked the Internet in West Papua, making it difficult for independent verification of the incidents in the region. The block was later partially lifted.
Several activists and protesters accused of inciting protests were also detained, and police said they wanted to arrest prominent human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman.

'Prolonging oppression'

Jokowi said he wanted to meet Papuans because he was confused about why they supported him, but were opposed to the administration in Jakarta.
"I want to find out why it has to be different," he told Indonesia's Kompas daily.
But West Papuans note representatives from the Papuan People's Assembly were excluded from the meeting with Jokowi.
The Papuan Student Alliance, which has led several protest in recent weeks, has also rejected the government's offer for dialogue.
Jhon Gobai, chairman of the alliance, said the talks "only prolong the oppression" of the Papuans.
"Right now, the people in West Papua are joining to protest in the street to demand one thing: Referendum. That is exactly what we want," he said.

Vidhyandika Djati Perkasa, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the president needed to speak to all Papuans; not only those who supported integration.
"President Jokowi needs to visit Papua soon and set dialogue in West Papua instead (of the palace in Jakarta)," he said. 
"The dialogue can be done several times to make sure that every West Papuan feels they are being represented," he added.
Meanwhile, Alissa Wahid, of the Gusdurian organisation, which is dedicated to the legacy of former President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, urged Jokowi's government to ensure that West Papuans are treated as equals in Indonesian.
Alissa said a "human approach" had to be prioritised to address the violence and racism.

The issue of racism is a sensitive topic for many Papuans, and they said that Jokowi needs to confront it if he wants to ease tensions.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Filep Karma, a pro-independence activist who was jailed for more than 10 years, said that many non-Papuans have repeatedly called him a "monkey".
Aprilia Wayar, a Papuan novelist, said, she had experienced similar racism.
"Just yesterday, I wanted to rent a house in Yogyakarta. But when I came to visit the house, the owner asked me where I came from? I said I am from West Papua. They immediately cancelled it," she said, recalling the incident.
Rosa Moiwend, a West Papuan activist, told Al Jazeera there would be no progress unless the issue of racism was addressed by the country and the president.
Above all, Jokowi must also look into the political history between Indonesia and West Papua, and clarify what happened during the 1969 referendum, she added.
"Otherwise, we are tired with another dialogue."

2) Australia refuses to rule out handing over Sydney lawyer who advocates for West Papuans to Indonesia

Marni Cordell and Ben Doherty Tue 17 Sep 2019 13.41 AEST

Dfat says Interpol red notice for arrest of Veronica Koman is a matter for Australian federal police

The Australian government has refused to rule out handing over a Sydney-based lawyer who advocates for West Papuans to Indonesian authorities.
Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer who currently lives in Australia, is being pursued by Indonesian police for disseminating evidence of police- and military-backed violence in West Papua.
Koman has been a credible source of eyewitness accounts, photos and footage of protests that have swept across West Papua and other Indonesian provinces in recent weeks.

Several people have reportedly died and dozens of others injured in violent clashes with Indonesian police, military and military-backed militia, which were sparked by the racist abuse of Papuan students in Java but have morphed into a demand for a referendum on West Papuan independence.
Koman faces charges under the country’s controversial electronic information and transactions law, and faces up to six years in jail if found guilty.
East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told the Guardian that if Koman did not report to Indonesian authorities by 18 September, a red notice would be issued through Interpol for her arrest. “After that we will work with the international police,” he said.

When asked whether the Australian federal police would act on an Interpol red notice for the arrest of Koman, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was a matter for the AFP. A spokesperson for the AFP said: “Any questions regarding this matter should be directed to Indonesian authorities.”
Koman said in a statement that there was a “surprisingly wide [Indonesian] government campaign to pressure me into silence”, including police intimidation of her family in Jakarta and threats to revoke her Indonesian passport and block her bank accounts.
“For years, the Indonesian government has allocated more time and energy to waging a propaganda war than it has to investigating and ending human rights abuses in West Papua,” she said. “Now we are seeing a clear example of ‘shoot the messenger’ in the state’s effort to persecute those, including me, who draw attention to abuses it is unwilling or unable to address.” 
The Interpol “red notice” system – ostensibly used to “seek the location and arrest of wanted persons wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence” – is regularly abused by authoritarian governments to pursue dissidents or political opponents who have left the country’s territory.

Globally, there are about 58,000 current valid red notices, of which only about 7,000 are public.
Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution forbids Interpol from undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”.
Indonesia issued a red notice for West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda in 2011 but was forced to rescind it in 2012 after it was found to be politically motivated, and without genuine criminal basis.
Australia has detained at least one person on the basis of a flawed red notice.
Egypt issued a red notice for its national Sayed Abdellatif, who arrived in Australia by boat as an asylum seeker in 2012.
A Guardian investigation revealed that several charges listed against his name had never been brought against him at his trial-in-absentia and that other convictions were based on evidence obtained “under severe torture”. The Australian government had known for 18 months the red notice was invalid but had not acted to release him.
Abdellatif’s family members received visas and were released into the community. But he remains in high security at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre after more than seven years, despite recommendations from the United Nations human rights council that he be released and compensated for his “clearly disproportionate … deprivation of liberty”.
Fair Trials took up Abdellatif’s case, campaigning for the red notice to be withdrawn, and it was finally removed in 2018.
On Monday, a group of UN human rights experts issued a statement calling on Indonesia to protect the rights of Koman and others reporting on the West Papua protests.
“We call for immediate measures to ensure the protection of freedom of expression and address acts of harassment, intimidation, interference, undue restriction and threats against those reporting on the protests,” the experts said.

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